Review: The Hengist in Aylesford Re-opens

The Hengist, 7-9 High Street, Aylesford,ME20 7AX Tel: 01622 885800

As I walk out of The Hengist restaurant, Aylesford, I am full and happy and that is because I have just been treated to one of the best meals of my life.  The Hengist re-opened on 12th April following their opening party on 10th April.

Having spent £400,000 on the renovation of the former restaurant, owners Steve and Alan Swift and David House have created a versatile restaurant and bar with several different dining areas – two fine dining rooms upstairs (The Crystal Room and the Conservatory), and the Saxon themed Horsa Bar as well as an all-day restaurant downstairs and a fantastic outdoor garden.

Known for its fine dining, The Hengist has enjoyed the accolades of several awards over the years including a 2AA Rosette Award, a recommendation in the Michelin Guide and chosen as finalists in Kent’s Restaurant Awards – so the new owners have big shoes to fill and I had high expectations for my lunch. Lucy Hall was with me and five minutes before the dinner was ready we realised they had not been informed about her vegetarianism. Not a problem at the Hengist.  Lucy received a full vegetarian fine dining menu created specifically for her.

The front of house Manager, Kelly, gave us a tour of the new restaurant which boasts 64 covers in all and pointed out that the restaurant is now family friendly with Sunday roast dinners in demand.

The Hengist Head Chef is Petrus Madutlela – a 2013 Masterchef the Professionals quarter finalist.  The presentation and attention to detail given to each course oozed professionalism and perfection as one would expect from a chef who has been put through their paces by chef Michel Roux Junior. The food itself was a varied menu and the food and beverages they use are sourced locally where possible.  To complement the starter, a Kits Coty chardonnay from Chapel Down vineyard was produced and later in the meal Sanford Pinot Noir red wine complimented the duck main course.

The menu started with the english pea veloute with applemint snow, home-made granary bread with a mustard and truffle oil butter.  A perfect poached egg sat in the middle of the flavoursome veloute with the applemint snow adding texture to the dish. The next course was fillet of cod with seafood – muscles, squid, shrimp and oyster mushrooms.  The taste was delicate and the light curried broth didn’t overpower the cod.  I must admit I avoided my nemesis ‘the oyster mushroom’ but they looked good on the plate and everything was placed with precision.

Then the breast of Talmara duck arrived. The duck was slightly pink, moist and juicy with a surprising accompaniment of chorizo which worked well.  It was then time to clean the pallet with the blueberry and lime posset (the combination was my favourite of the meal and the posset was as light as air and actually fizzed in the wooden dessert bowl) before the raspberry and vanilla Eton Mess which treated me to the best meringue I have ever had. It was then time for Petit Fours with home-made honeycomb which, although feeling full, I found room for.

The meal gave me a great insight into each area of the Hengist’s menu – from sea to field the tastes were all incredible and although I am not a fan of duck (too intense for me) the duck at the Hengist was melt in the mouth.  I really enjoyed my lunch and on top of fine food I also had the pleasure of good service in a relaxed atmosphere surrounded by the sophisticated glamour of the fine dining restaurant.

I recommend this restaurant to anyone and the prices are surprisingly reasonable.  For further details or to book a table see www.hengistrestaurant.co.uk Tel: 01622 885800.

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